Planning to Sail to (and “Activate”) New Water-Locked Islands in the Ottawa River

To avoid the “Winter Blues” I’ve been doing some “research” towards the coming sailing season. One of the activities that occupied my Summers recently was the successful “activation” of water-locked islands in the Ottawa River. This comprised sailing to the island, making a landing and operating from it with a portable radio station. In this manner, in 2015, operating from Aylmer Is. (ON-295) and later from Upper Duck Is. (ON-296), I was able to log from each the required minimum of 25 contacts, and thus successfully “qualify” them for the “Canadian Islands Activators” (CIA) Program (http://veislandactivators.blogspot.ca):

Aylmer Is. is the only island on the Ontario side in the ~20 nautical miles of navigable waters between the Deschènes Rapids and the town of Quyon. However, on the Québec side of that same portion of the river, two other water-locked islands can be found: Allen Island and Mohr Island, neither of which has up to now been “qualified” for the CIA Program. Further upriver, near Chats Fall Dam and also on the Ontario side of the river, are two more water-locked islands: Alexandra Is. and Kedey Is. However, given the shallow waters around them and the strong currents caused by the near-by dam, these may be better approached by dinghy from one of the ramps in Fitzroy Harbour. Thus, Allen Island and Mohr Island seem among the most likely destinations for some of my sailing outings this coming season.

Allen Is. (Grid. Loc.: FN15xl77) is a small, slender stretch of land 100-meter long located some 12 miles NW from Lac Deschènes Rapids, whence the name by which it is known in Ontario: “Twelve Mile Island”. Its most salient features include a solar-powered lateral red marker and a helicopter-landing pad. Given the proper weather and wind conditions it may be possible to attempt a day-sailing trip to the island, anchor on its NE side (likely with some protection for the current and prevailing winds), land somewhere on its NE shore and find a spot from where to operate portable for a few hours. Constance Bay, Basking Beach and even Pinhey Pt. are alternative near-by anchorages where to spend one or more nights swinging at the anchor, if so required.

So far so good. However, in “expeditions” like these foremost consideration should be given to the existing wildlife. In this regard, an osprey nest (Pandion haliaetus) was reported last year on top of the red lateral marker of Allen Is.: in late May 2016, a picture was posted in the WaterRangers page by Kat Kavanagh (https://app.waterrangers.ca/locations/298) (see an excerpt on the right of the attached composite):

allen-island

This nest does not seem to compromise the light atop or its solar charger. However, its fate may depend on what the Canadian Coast Guard (that still looks after all official navigation aids in the river) may decide in this regard. The osprey couple that built this net is very likely to return every season and maybe a near-by platform should be built to relocate the nest and avoid the use of the light marker by these birds.

I was hoping to be able to operate under one of the very few trees on the SE tip of the island. However, this would be about 20 meters away from the marker, which may be too close for the birds. Hence a better plan may be to operate in the open from the northern tip of the island, some 100 meters from the marker. Osprey-human encounters seem to be rare outside those created by wildlife scientists approaching these nests to closely examine them. However, there does not seem to be an established minimum distance to avoid disturbing an osprey nest. The “New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife” in its page entitled “Osprey Net Structure Placement“ (http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/ensp/pdf/osprey_platform_planandmaterials.pdf) indicates that: “a safe distance from which to observe ospreys will vary depending on the area, but observers must stay beyond the distance at which the adults react.” Not interested in observing the nest and determined to avoid causing any reaction from these birds, I may also defer the landing to a later date in the season (late August or early September) after the osprey family has vacated the nest (http://www.ofnc.ca/birding/bbanestdates.html).

The light on Allen Is. is listed on the “List of Lights – Inland Waters – Ottawa River” of the Canadian Coast Guard “Notices to Mariners” (https://www.notmar.gc.ca/publications/list-livre/inlandwaters-eauxinter/i12333-en.php) as “Twelve Mile Island” light 1301.3. This light could also be radio-activated on its own right, as the ARLHS (Amateur Radio Light house Society) includes it in the “World List or Lights” (WHOL) database as “CAN 1433” (http://wlol.arlhs.com/lighthouse/CAN1433.html).

Mohr Island (Grid. Loc.: FN15WM14,), on the other hand, is a heavily forested “archipelago” comprising at least three islands (two larger and a smaller one) enclosing a cove open to the east (i.e., protected from the river current and prevailing westerlies).

mohr-island

This spot is a preferred anchorage in this portion of the river. Depending on the height of the waters, there is also a small sandy beach on the south shore of the anchorage. The main problem for activating this island (besides its ever present mosquitoes) is the distance from the marina, which for a small sailboat and depending on wind conditions, may require a 2-3 day expedition or launching from a ramp upriver. On the other hand, depending on wind direction and strength (and mosquito density – mid May to mid July being “mosquito season” in the Ottawa area) this may be a good spot for one or more starry overnights at the anchor. Here is a picture of the SE tip of the island taken from the anchorage in the early morning of August 25, 2001, during a week-long cruise up-river with a “quasi-teenager” (https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/sail-cruising-the-ottawa-river-between-lac-deschenes-and-chat-falls-in-the-early-2000s/):

100-0498-1

 

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